Schmidt had been an academic advisor at University of Wisconsin – Osh-kosh while working out at TNT, a fitness studio in Fond du Lac. TNT found-er Derek Toshner approached her and asked if she’d be willing to build and run an obstacle course on the property behind the gym. She agreed to lease the land and got to work. Schmidt had done some obstacle course racing and did her own research. She says, “I knew a few obstacles I definitely wanted on the course and I found more after looking at what the Army does. We modeled our obstacles after those but downsized for the general public.” Her talented husband Joe and a small team built all the obstacles — traverse wall, money bars, balance beams, steeple hurdles, tire runs and more. In 2012, TNT Adventure was open. Within a year, Schmidt left her job at UW-Oshkosh to devote her time and energy to growing her business. “I remember sitting at my desk thinking I needed to do something else. I’m an active person; I like to be moving,” says Schmidt. “I think we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and our goal in life should be to use and share them, not necessarily on the side like I was doing. I had no time for my family. Something had to give.” Finding a niche While there are plenty of obstacle course races throughout Wisconsin each year, Schmidt believes she has the only permanent course in Northeast Wisconsin. She designed TNT Adventure to be challenging but safe. The experience can be modified based on the user’s abilities as well as goals. “If you’re training for a Tough Mudder or any other obstacle course race, this is a good place to try it out,” adds Schmidt. “I can modify the workout to make it as easy or as hard as you need or want it and I can teach skills. I don’t make you do anything that is out of your comfort zone or that you are worried about getting hurt.” Individuals use the obstacle course for personal training and countless groups have come to TNT Adventure for team building — corporate groups, athletic teams, schools, boy scouts, girl scouts, karate clubs and more. Schmidt reveals TNT Adventure has found a niche with children’s groups. “Parents are happy to send their kids here because they want them to be athletic. Schools also like to develop team-building skills and they like that our course gets kids moving.” Groups have come from Milwaukee and Michigan to try out the course; 100 Appleton Army reservists came out last year to test their skills. Next year the top obstacle course racers in the world are expected to come to TNT Adventure for a two-day seminar. “When people come here they try something they didn’t see themselves doing and they discover they can do it. They leave with a great sense of confidence and pride,” says Schmidt. TNT Adventure is typically open April to October or November, weather dependent. New obstacles are added every year. A typical day In addition to running TNT Adventure, Schmidt teaches inside TNT. Right now she offers a Dynamic 50s class for people looking for stability, mobility and strength building. She holds kettlebell training certifications so this summer she is teaching a class for kids age 11-12. “We have a blast. I make it fun,” adds Schmidt. For those looking for a guided workout, Schmidt offers personal training. “I have a great job. I get to see people smile all day long. They have fun and leave here feeling good,” adds Schmidt. While teaching and training demands a great deal of her energy, Schmidt has likely already run five or 10 miles before coming to the gym. She typically starts her day around 5 a.m., runs a few miles, gets her kids off to school, comes in to teach a class, does some personal training and completes some marketing tasks for the business before heading home. One of the blessings of business ownership is the flexible schedule. Schmidt explains one of her priorities is being there for her children, Sam, 14, and Sophie, 11. “I am setting my own hours. I can see my kids — take them to school and pick them up. To me, that is very important right now,” she adds. Amazing races Schmidt is passionate about health and wellness, both her clients’ and her own. So, when a woman at the gym challenged her to run the MS Run the US, she couldn’t find a reason to say no. MS Run the US is a nonprofit organization that brings awareness and funds to further research in the fight to end multiple sclerosis. Each runner is expected to commit to a training program and raise $10,000. Schmidt was one of 18 runners on the 2015 relay team. She kicked off the run on April 12, running six days from Los Angeles to Barstow, California, for a total of 152 miles. “Your body learns the load,” says Schmidt. “A few weeks building up to the run I had to do two back-to-backs, 25 miles on a Saturday and 25 miles on a Sunday. At first you think there is no way I can turn around and do it again but then you do it and you live. Your body recovers.” While the race requires runners to cover a lot of ground in a day, Schmidt reveals participants aren’t running as fast as they can for six days. The run is broken down into five- or six-mile increments to make it more doable, although it’s still a tremendous feat for any runner. Two months later, Schmidt joined friends and completed the Ragnar, an overnight running relay race from Madison, Wisconsin, to Chicago. She ran 33 miles. A confidence boost As Schmidt reflects on the last four years as owner of TNT Adventure and her personal accomplishments this year, she is grateful she’s had the opportunity to share her talents with others. “I like what people get out of the experience when they come here. They find new confidence,” she adds. As for the future, Schmidt reveals her intention is to grow TNT Adventure. She continues to appeal to corporate groups interested in team building and athletic teams looking for a good physical workout. The space in and around the course allows Schmidt to get creative. She can add kettlebell swings as a station; users can run the one-third-mile loop around the course between obstacles. “I think we have a lot to offer, and there is more we can do,” she adds.

Building Confidence: Melissa Schmidt

We all have different gifts or strengths that make us stand out — smarts, creativity, compassion, perseverance — although we tend to discover these at different ages and stages of our life. For Melissa Schmidt, owner and operator of TNT Adventure Obstacle Course in Fond du Lac, she didn’t realize she was athletic until her 20s.


She was overweight in grade school — a student that concentrated on academics and passed on all athletic opportunities. In college, as a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, friends encouraged her to try out for the rowing team. While her build was perfect for the sport, Schmidt found she had a lot of catching up to do. She had two choices: quit or dig deep.


Schmidt committed herself to rowing and along the way found she had great determination and strength. Her progress and success in her four years on the team even made her an Olympic hopeful.


While the timing of the Olympics didn’t work out, Schmidt embraced her gift and dedicated herself to a healthy lifestyle. Today the 43-year-old makes a living leading individuals and groups in team building, race training and boot camp exercises on her obstacle course.


The story behind the course


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